SHIPPING ACCIDENTS: A SERIOUS THREAT
FOR MARINE ENVIRONMENT
Institute of Marine Sciences and Management,
University of Istanbul, Muskule Sok. Vefa-Istanbul.
e-mail : email@example.com
GSM : +90 532 322 45 04
1. Shipping accidents
Shipping is fundamental as well as dominant means of transport for the world trade 1 as
the Earth is almost covered by sea. Nearly 90.000 vessels of various sizes and more than
250 different types, specialized on cargo or passenger trade or both, serve for humanity.
Ships trade in a high-risk operating environment. In the age of precision navigation and
the satellite era, very many casualties still occur at sea. Even the available advanced and
sophisticated navigation instruments and the enhanced communication technologies have
been unable to halt shipping accidents.2 Shipping is and always will be full of risks despite
high and ever increasing safety standards.
The Oxford English Dictionary defines an accident as, “anything that happens without
foresight and expectation: an unusual event, which proceeds from unknown cause, or is an
unusual effect of a known cause.”
Webster’s Third New International Dictionary gives the similar essence - but with slightly
more explanation, as “a usually sudden event or change, occurring without intent or
volition through carelessness, unawareness, ignorance, or combination of causes and
producing an unfortunate result.”
Shipping accident is a term generally used for any accident results in financial loss, either
in life or property or both. (Akten, 1982)
Any shipping accident, whatever in nature, is every seafarer’s nightmare. Should it occur in
a confined area, like a channel or a strait, where the traffic is heavy, several as well as
serious risks are likely to be faced.
On the other hand, a major shipping accident becomes even more critical by way of, say,
water ingress thus possibly worsening the ship’s damage stability if exacerbated by heavy
In rounded figure, 4/5th of the world trade.
According to Lloyd’s Register’s Casualty Statistics, the number of ships lost as a proportion of the number of ships in the world fleet continues
In 1995, 3 ships were lost for every thousand in the world fleet.
In 2000, the equivalent figure was 1.9 for every thousand.
Major studies into marine oil spills show a similar decline in the annual percentage of oil carried by ships that is subsequently spilled.
weather or strong current. In some other accidents however the issue becomes more
“environmental” due to oil spillage. (Akten and Gonencgil, 2002)
The reasons for shipping accidents are many and complex. Increased sizes of ships to
achieve economies in transport costs are one of the primary reasons. Bigger size brings
corresponding increases in cargo and passenger capacity; hence when a casualty occurs, the
risk of life and property immediately becomes higher. Reduced ship maneuverability in
connection with larger scale, which ultimately is a function of increased risk, is another
contributing factor in marine accidents. (Chapman and Akten, 1998)
There may be several causes for shipping accidents. In broad terms these are: natural
conditions, technical failures, route conditions, ship-related factors and human or personal
Natural conditions could be natural phenomena such as current, tide and tidal
stream, severe wind, reduced visibility (fog, heavy snow and rain), storm seas,
darkness etc. affecting the ship or those controlling her.
Technical failures are shortcomings within the ship, such as corrosion3, steering
failure, engine failure, or hull failure arising from defective materials or
construction, or by the shore-based installations, such as aids to navigation.4
Route conditions may include navigational error like over reliance on inaccurate
nautical charts, charts of suspect reliability or based upon old surveys, narrow
channels with abrupt and angular windings, allowing for very limited
maneuverability and exposed to dense marine traffic, such as the Turkish Straits,
anchorage contiguous to traffic separation lanes, confined marine areas with
insufficient sea-room as well as navigational hazards such as shoals, reefs, wrecks
Ship-related factors could be the weakness of a ship, associated with her larger
size, hence less maneuvering capability and stability or draught constraints.
Human errors may include, inter alia, a lack of adequate knowledge and
experience, technical inability, bad look-out, not paying proper attention to
procedures and rules, carelessness in commanding a ship, misinterpretations of
radar information, fatigue and lack of alertness, overworking, tiredness,
insufficient rest periods, etc.
Cargo-related factors mostly include dangerous goods and heavy cargoes; i.e. their
hazardous characteristics (oils, chemicals, nuclear substances), the place /
compartment they are stowed onboard ships (on deck or under deck), and degree of
diligence that such cargoes need (grain, timber), all of which are related to ships’
Most of the accidents are attributed to human error; quite a lot to bad weather conditions
and some also to force majeure reasons.
“Even on the most modern ship, the most sophisticated navigational instrument is still the
human being, and one of the problems could be that those human beings are starting to rely
too much on particular pieces of equipment and not enough on their own common sense,
experience and training (O’Neil, 1999)
Corrosion has been a major factor in bulk carrier losses.
Some of the navigation and collision avoidance aids such as ARPA,GPS and VHF may also contribute to the cause of a collision accident if not
treated properly or the correct precautions are not taken.
Any accident may have more than one cause. Nevertheless, statistical analyses on the basis
of the main causal trends explicitly reveal that human errors, though declining marginally,
continue to be the major cause for all shipping accidents - being almost 80 percent. In other
words, “the acts or omissions of human beings play some part in virtually every accident,
including failures, like structural or equipment ones, which may be the immediate cause.”
(ISF and ICS, 1996)
The density of vessel traffic, particularly in those narrow areas such as straits, channels,
port approaches where there is insufficient sea-room, close-quarter situations frequently
exist, and more ships are concentrated, remains second to human errors as contributing
factor of marine casualties.
Shipping accidents by types are quite many and their effects on marine environment differ
from one another. Collision or contact, capsize, foundering, breaking up, grounding,
breakdown of the ship underway, stranding, and fire or explosion are examples of common
Collision is one of the major types of shipping accidents.It is the impact of ship against ship
by way of striking or contact. Ships or other floating bodies are the main constituents of the
collision cases. Such accidents have still been the bane of modern navigation - despite the
sustained improvements in navigation techniques.
There are even certain collision accidents and claims which taken in the past to the
International Court of Justice for final resolution. The first such marine collision dispute in
the World is the Bozkurt v. Lotus case.
On the night of August 02, 1926 the Turkish cargo ship, Bozkurt, with 1000 tons of coal
onboard was involved in a collision in the Aegean Sea, off Sigri Lighthouse, west of Lesvos
(Mitylene) Island, with the French passenger ship, Lotus. The Bozkurt sank just after the
incident and only 10 seafarers out of the full complement were rescued and eight of the
crew was lost.
The case was brought to the attention of the Turkish criminal court and on appeal the
Court found that both parties contributed to the collision and accordingly both vessels were
held liable. The decision that each vessel should have proportionate share in the blame plus
criminal penalties was upheld.
The French side raised objections against the Court decision that the Turkish jurisdiction
on the case was inconsistent. The Court decision was jointly appealed through the
International Court of Justice, in Hague, and the International Court finally upheld the
Turkish Court decision.
The main question before the Court whether Turkey had acted in conflict with the
principles of international law by instituting proceedings against the master of m.v Lotus.
The Court decided in its judgment of September 7, 1927 that Turkey had not acted in
conflict with the principles of international law.
Fire aboard ship at sea is one of a seafarer’s worst fears.It is also another serious threat
facing all seafarers and passengers which may result in considerable financial loss or
large-scale environmental damage. It sometimes lead to total loss of the ship and / or her
cargo.In spite of high safety standards it is an immediate danger for life,cargo and the
In the earlier days of merchant shipping a shipboard fire had been the major threat for
ships and seafarers. Today it ranks second to stranding accidents in shipping casualties. 5
(Mendiola et al, 1999)
Marine accidents include groundings and strandings, too. The tanker Torrey Canyon which
grounded off the Scilly Isles just 37 years ago was the first major incident of its kind
resulting in extensive oil pollution. The Norwegian tanker Orange Star went aground in the
Bosphorus in December 1997 in the same spot as the bulk carrier Friendly a year
previously. (Chapman and Akten, 1998) Similarly, the Greek tanker Sea Salvia with 81000
tons of Russian crude onboard and en route for the Aegean Sea, ran aground in July 1998
in the same point as the other Greek tanker Crude Gulf, loaded with 140800 tons of crude
of the same origin, almost a month after, on August 25, when both in the wrong shipping
lane at the southern exit of the Bosporus, even blocking the shipping movement for quite
some time to and fro the Haydarpasha container terminal.
The grounding of merchant ships may well result in fire and / or explosion particularly
when a large tanker involved in such an accident.
2. The Bosphorus : A study area with high accident rate
The Strait of İstanbul,or the Bosphorus, is one of the major and busiest seaways in the
world linking the Black Sea to the Sea of Marmara. It is a narrow “S-shaped” channel, open
for international shipping. The Strait separates the metropolitan area of Istanbul into two
almost equal parts and due to the over-crowded character of the area the consequence of
any marine casualty is potentially catastrophic. The city, with its 15 million inhabitants,
has so far been fortunate to have escaped relatively undamaged. (Chapman and Akten,
The Montreux Convention relating to the regime of the Turkish Straits establishes freedom
of passage and navigation with certain formalities for merchant vessels of any flag and with
any kind of cargo,by day and by night,and the Strait is kept open for shipping traffic.
Hence the Bosphorus serves as an international seaway of economic and strategic
For the period 1994 – 2002 since the introduction of the TSS the mean of the yearly figures
indicates that 132 vessels a day (or nearly 6 vessels an hour) navigate the Strait. When
local traffic is taken into account, almost another 2000 crossings a day (or roughly 85
crossings an hour) must be added to this figure. Therefore, it wouldn’t be wrong to say that
any time of day nearly 100 “floating bodies” use the Strait – either crossing or proceeding
up or down.
The Strait with its dense shipping traffic is second to the Malacca Straits. The Straits of
Malacca are the busiest seaway in the World with approximately 300 vessels passage a day
(100.000 per year).The Bosphorus follows with an average of 132 vessels transit (passage)
a day, local traffic exclusive, and the Dover Strait with approximately 125 vessels passing
north-south and 100 crossings a day is the very close third. (Oral, 2001)
Similarly, shipping traffic compared with the main canals of the World shows clearly the
high density of the traffic through the Strait: (1999-2000)
Mendiola S. et al, 1999: Fire ranks second in maritime casualties,IFE Journal, 1.
Table – 1 : The Bosphorus and
the main Canals
canal shipping traffic
Panama Canal 12755
Suez Canal 13552
Kiel Canal 23945
Source : Institute of Shipping Economics and Logistics,
In the year 1841 the number of transits was 4125 and this almost tripled in 1856 during
the Crimean War to 14170. Today there are around 24000 transits in each direction
including inter alia, large tankers, chemical product tankers, LNG and LPG carriers as well
as local transits. In 1936 when the Montreux Convention was signed and brought into
effect, the number of vessels passing through the Bosphorus was 4700; the aggregate
tonnage was 9.71 million tonnes and the average vessel size was 2066 nrt. Similar figures
for 2002 were 47253 vessels with an aggregate tonnage of 389.4 million tonnes and an
average vessel size of 8300 grt. 6
The Bosphorus is the one of the most critical passages in the world for vessels particularly
because of its narrowness, its shape with several sharp turns and headlands which limit
the opportunity to maintain to a proper look-out and the complex nature and changes of its
Currents and darkness are the two dominant factors causing marine accidents in the
Bosphorus. The complex and day-to-day changing character of the prevalent surface
current, as well as the large course alterations that vessels have to make with or against
the main current, cause the difficulties. Most of the incidents occur when vessels travelling
with the current taking sharp turns lose their manoeuvrability. There are critical areas in
the Strait,such as Yenikoy and Umuryeri (or Umur Banki) where most of the stranding
and grounding accidents occur as vessels negotiate sharp turns (80º at Yenikoy, 70º at
Umuryeri). More than half of the grounding and stranding incidents in the Bosphorus
since 1994 in which the Traffic Separation Scheme (TSS) was introduced have occurred at
these two critical points. Specifically, 26 such casualties took place in Yenikoy and
Umuryeri areas (13 in Yenikoy, 13 in Umuryeri) out of the total 45. (Akten, 2004)
A total of 461 marine accidents of different types (i.e 209 collisions, 138 groundings, 77
strandings, 28 fires / explosions and 9 others, such as rudder blockage, vessel’s list, or
engine breakdown) occurred in this tricky strip of water during the period 1953-2002,7 the
majority being collisions. Since 1994 when the TSS was introduced there have been 82
marine casualties the majority of which have been groundings / strandings. Groundings
and strandings having occured in the Bosphorus constitute 55 percent of all casualties with
the major risk factors being currents, sharp turns and darkness.
Corresponding aggregate tonnage figures for previous years was : 318.1 million tonnes in 2001, 309.4 million tonnes in the year 2000.
24 percent during the “left-side up scheme”(1934-1982), 58 percent during the “right-side up scheme”(1982-1994), and the
remaining 18 percent since the introduction of the “traffic separation schemes”.
Over the last 10 years the Turkish Straits have turned into one of the key shipping foci of
the world seaborne oil trade, comparable with the Suez Canal, the Straits of Malacca and
the Straits of Dover. It was previously the same in 1892 when oil cargoes loaded in the
Black Sea port of Batumi were delivered by tankers which passed through the Turkish
Straits to their customers in the Far East. Nearly 123 millon tons of oil passed through the
Turkish Straits last year, representing 5 per cent of the oil traded by sea.8 The number of
tankers passing through the Strait of Istanbul last year was 5188.9 In other words, 15
tankers per day, large or small, laden or in ballast, sailed through the Bosphorus.
Similarly, a further 1330 tankers carrying LPG and chemicals used the Bosphorus, an
additional 4 tankers a day - but smaller in size.
Geographical and oceanographic conditions as well as navigational constraints are the
main parametres making the navigation through difficult and risky.Additionally, since
passage through the Strait entails a run by about 17 nautical miles all the way and takes
almost two hours, utmost vigilance is necessary in order to maintain safe standards of
navigation and to conduct vessels.
Safe navigation in the Bosphorus is a matter of vital importance to Turkey as well as to all
nations using the Strait. Therefore, the dangers posed by ever increasing shipping traffic to
the surrounding inhabited areas and to the environment have compelled Turkey to take
immediate action and to reinforce existing regulations of maritime traffic in the Strait.
Vessels proceeding without a pilot,
Dense marine traffic,
Bad weather conditions,
Technical inadequacy of ship,
Complex and sometimes day-to-day changing nature of currents,
Lack of adequate knowledge about the region,
Loss of alertness and caution impeding the safe passage,
Existence of areas with sharp turns (45º for Kandilli, 80º for Yeniköy, 70º for
Lack of a proper vessel-escorting system.
2. Safer shipping ahead?
2. Acident-free shipping: a dream?
Very many vessels differ from one another in size and types navigate round-the-clock on the
seven seas. On their way to destinations they normally follow customary routes and
courses; the primary objective along the way being, inter alia:
to keep the shortest possible distance,
Corresponding figures for previous years in terms of million tons was as follows : 61 in 1997 , 67 in 1998 , 85 in 1999 , 91 in 2000 ,
101 in 2001, 123 in the year 2002 respectively.
Figures for number of tankers passed through for previous years was as follows : 4248 in 1996, 4303 in 1997, 5142 in 1998, 5504 in
1999, 6093 in 2000, and 6516 in the year 2001.
to avoid navigational hazards, and defective navigational marks, and,
to prevent collision(s).
In areas where shipping traffic exists, encounters of vessels, be it seldom or frequent, single
or multi, take place if and when their courses coincide and maneuvering may become,
sooner or later, inevitable.
Areas of heavy traffic, vicinity of large ports or port terminals, headlands where traffic vice-
versa are concentrated are the critical places that likely collision accidents to occur.
Ships spend quite long periods from one port to another, are exposed to various external
hazards such as darkness, different visibility conditions, etc. which one way or another
contribute to shipping accidents like collisions. Bad look-outs, not taking the proper action
until a very late stage, close presence of a third ship which prevents taking early action and
a late proper maneuver as against the crossing, overtaking and meeting end-on rules, etc.
also constitute the internal threats of collision incidents.
The risk of collision for a vessel proceeding on a shipping route singly is almost zero. If,
however, there is another vessel underway in the area even a simple encounter may create
risk of collision if the Collision Regulations are not adhered to and / or can have disastrous
Should vessels underway approach one another so as to involve risk of collision either of the
following encounter situations may occur:
end-on or nearly end-on as to the other,
crossing on either side, or
b. overtaking the other.
Where one of the ships involved in a collision accident is a tanker, or a vessel carrying
dangerous goods, the outcome will be damage to the environment. Incidents have occurred
in the Turkish Straits, such as with the Peter Zoranic, World Harmony, Norborn, Nordic
Faith, Blue Star, Lutsk, Independenta, Nassia, Jambur and Datton Shang to mention a
few, are examples of this. Around 200.000 tonnes of oil has been spilt into the Strait of
Istanbul and its approaches from these collisions alone. (Chapman and Akten, 1998)
Accidents may take place anywhere, anytime and under any conditions – day or night, in
clear weather or restricted visibility, in narrow straits, canals, inland waterways, coastal
waters or on the high seas; and even due to defective or off-station navigational marks.
In daytime and in a visual situation, it is easier to judge distances. Likewise, course
alterations are rather obvious and the other vessels around will notice any change of
aspect. To judge distances and to estimate the visibility at night is at times quite difficult.
Therefore, navigation, even on a dark clear night, requires special care for certain reasons
areas where there exist bright and scattered background lighting from the shore
can cause confusion, and,
reduction of the nominal range of visibility of the lights thereby, and,
sailing lights being hardly visible,
unlit navigational hazards affect also the navigational safety.
These reasons are also contributing factors in shipping accidents.
It has been computed, for instance, that the lights exhibited on both sides of the Strait of
Istanbul are visible only to 1.9 nautical miles at night though their nominal range is mostly
eight nautical miles, due to the presence of bright background lights from restaurants, city
and residential illuminations, moving cars, etc. Nevertheless, the background lighting in
the Strait usually masks the navigation lights of not only small crafts but also large vessels
and the presence of such floating objects are sometimes first noticed by the moving
silhouette they cast against the shore lights. (Akten, 2004)
Darkness is thus one of the significant impacts on clear weather accidents.
“The effect of darkness on the accidents in clear weather was found to be three times the
number taking place in daylight”. “During restricted visibility there was found to be no
appreciable difference.” (Cockroft, 1982) For the Bosphorus however the number of
accidents occurring in darkness was found to be nearly twice the number of occurring in
daylight. (Akten, 2004)
Vessels in the course of their movements may show day and night different aspects, from
port to starboard, stem to stern, etc. In the case where one vessel can be seen by eye from
the other and silhouettes are visible, their respective aspects may apparently be observed.
In all weathers from sunset to sunrise, within the hours of darkness and when silhouettes
are hard to see however, sailing lights the vessels exhibit help to identify their angle of
Hence, sailing lights play a crucial role in order each vessel to ascertain the others’ way.
Any alteration of course, be it substantial or small, may readily be apparent to another
vessel observing visually her sidelights and masthead light(s).
The first introduction of a regulation requiring steam ships to carry compulsory sailing
lights goes back to late 1840s and is the outcome of the collision between the British ship
Arctic and the French steamer Vesta. The loss of the Arctic after the collision led to
compulsory red and green sidelights on ships. In the early days, it was customary to carry
a single light on the bowsprit end. (Lloyd’s List, 1984)
The rules concerning side lights and that a masthead light be carried onboard steam ships
was first incorporated into the Steam Navigation Act of 1846 in the year 1848, two years
later the Steam Navigation Act entered into force. However, it was in 1858 that sailing
ships were required to carry sidelights. (Sailing Depth-1, 2001)
Current rules require the navigation lights to be shown on vessels operating between
sunset and sunrise, and even from sunrise to sunset in restricted visibility. Green and red
sidelights, masthead light(s), stern light(s), flashing light and all-round lights to indicate
vessels not only by size (large or small, i.e less than 12 metres, or 50 metres or more, large
vessel, vessel constrained by draught, etc), but also the type and purpose (sailing vessel,
fishing vessel, tug boat, hydrofoil, etc). The navigation lights when observed visually from
the other vessel also indicate the aspect and the direction the vessel is heading, and give
clues with regard to any proper action to avoid collision - in particular course alteration,
slowing down or stopping the vessel.
“From the safety and pollution prevention viewpoints, shipping is in a much better state
than it was a decade ago. Lloyd’s Underwriters Marine Intelligence Unit statistics show a
clear and sustained decline in the number of ships over 500 gross tons lost each year, from
over 180 units in 1991 to less than 80 units just ten years later.During the same period, the
decline in terms of aggregate tonnage lost each year is from 1.75 million gross tons in 1991
to less than 0.75 million lost in 2001.” (O’Neil, 2002)
Safe navigation in the Bosphorus is a matter of vital importance to Turkey as well as to all
nations using the Strait. Therefore, the dangers posed by ever increasing shipping traffic to
the surrounding inhabited areas and to the environment have compelled Turkey to take
immediate action and to reinforce existing regulations of maritime traffic in the Strait. 10
The Montreux Convention with regard to the regime of the Turkish Straits establishes the
principle of freedom of navigation for all merchant vessels, regardless their sizes, flags and
cargoes, in peace time, with Turkey the sole authority with legal power to interpret the
Convention.This freedom for vessels does not however give free reign to uncontrolled or
undisciplined passage in accordance with the provisions of of the relevant internationally
accepted rules and regulations currently in use.
Casualties having involved large tankers in particular, have caused ecological disasters in
the past few decades. One of the most critical areas where incidents have taken place is the
Turkish Straits Region (TSR). The Bosphorus and its approaches with its 12 millions of
inhabitants have faced very many casualties. Under the current heavy maritime traffic, not
only the risks of collision increased but also impacts of a probable tragic disaster became
more likely. The Turkish Straits, particularly the Strait of İstanbul are exposed to dense
marine traffic. According to the statistics published by the Maritime Undersecretariat more
than 50.000 vessels per annum enjoy transit passage through the Bosphorus.
Dangers and environmental threats exist in the Bosphorus today due to its norrow and
confined character, ever-increasing international shipping traffic in the area and increased
dimensions of transiting vessels. Kargoes of hazardous and harmful character also
contribute for the increase of such threats. For instance, an LPG tanker of 30.000 t may
have an effect of 11 times more than that of the bombs dropped on Hiroshima and
In order to reduce risks as such the Bosphorus needs vessel-escording services be set up,
especially for large vessels carrying dangerous goods.
The most critical part of the Turkish Strait Region with regard to the risk of casualty and
environmental sensitivity is the Bosphorus itself and its approaches. As the Strait
The Montreux Convention and maritime traffic regulations in the Turkish Straits,
separates the metropolitan area into two parts almost equally (i.e like river flowing in the
centre of a city) and due to over - crowded (almost one-forth of the population) character of
the area, consequence of any casualty is very likely to be a catastrophy. It is simply a divine
luck that the city with its 15 mio. inhabitants has so far escaped such a disaster encamped
A Crucial Safety Problem Arising From Maritime Traffic: Marine Pollution By Oil
1. Environmental performance of marine pollution
Marine pollution is defined by the Group of Experts as: “ introduction by man of substances
into the environment resulting in such deleterious effects as harm to living resource,
hazards to human health, hinderance to marine activities including fishing, impairment of
quality for use of seawater and the reduction amenities. Estuarine waters to fall within the
marine environments” (J.W. Smith: 1971). Marine pollution emanating from shipping
operations may either have one or some of the following sources: Oil, chemical and liquefied
gases, garbage, sewage, ballast water and dangerous goods.
Marine pollution, particularly by oil, is of great importance because the most important
pollutant in tonnage terms is oil. Oil is a general expression to designate a viscous liquid
having a density less than that of water. It can include crude oils varying in proportion, and
refined oils (such as diesel oil, heavy fuel oil, lubricating oil, kerosene and gasoline). Some
oils are toxic to marine life, others are harmful partly due to their smothering effect when
deposited (J.W. Smith: 1971).
Oil is the most important pollutant and pollution incidents are caused mostly either by ship
operations or tanker accidents, like collisions or groundings. The consequences of an
accident can have negative impact on the affected area, particularly if the accident occurs
close to the coast.
As oil floats on water it contaminates shores and floating objects and also renders water
and beaches unsuitable for recreation. As many pollutants which are soluble in water or
finally dispersed can not be recoverable; oil however, by floating on the surface grants the
possibility of being removed.
“More than 50 p.c of the cargoes carried by sea is said to be hazardous or harmful from
either safety or environmental point of view. Similarly, many materials used in the
operation of ships have the potential damage to environment.” (BIMCO: 1993).
In order words, the amount of oil entering the sea from shipping activities has lessened and
was estimated to have fallen from almost 1.57 mio tons in 1981 to roughly 569.000 tons in
1989. The figure for 1973 however, was 2.1 mio tons (BIMCO: 1993).
The credit for such a substantial positive impact is mainly due to the introduction of several
practices applicable to the shipping industry, particularly on tankers, such as load-on-top
and COW in cargo handling, separation and filtering devices for the ship-based discharge
coupled with SBT requirements by the technical regulations. The implementations we have
emphasized reduced operational and accidental pollution considerably.
2. Casualties with large scale of pollution
Increasing the dimensions of ships to an incredibly larger size for the good sake of
economies of scale, has brought in higher risks and ultimately more costly actions in case of
emergency. An example to this effect is the M.T. Atlantic Empress disaster, off Tabago, in
1979 when 276.000 tons of oil polluted the sea.
Casualties ended up with pollution have occurred within the Turkish Straits Region also
and around 200.000 tons of oil spilled into the Bosphorus and its approaches out of the
collision incidents which are listed in Table - 3.
Table 3. Major Collision Incidents In The Bosphorus (Akten, Ustaoğlu, Rodopman, 1995).
Date Ship’s Name and Flag Area Accident type and if
14.12.1960 World Harmony (Greek) collision and fire;
Peter Zoranic (Yugoslavia) Kanlıca 18000 tons oil spilled
15.09.1964 Norborn (Norwegian)
wreck of Peter Zoranic Kanlıca contact, fire and oil spill
01.03.1966 Lutsk (USSR) Collision and fire
Kransky Oktiabr (USSR) Kızkulesi 1850 tons oil spilled
15.11.1979 Independenta (Romanian) collision and fire;
Evriali (Greek) Haydarpaşa 94600 tons oil spill
09.11.1980 Nordic Faith (British) collision and fire
29.10.1988 Blue Star (Malta) contacted m.t Gaziantep;
Gaziantep (Turkish) Ahırkapı 1000 tons ammonia spill
25.03.1990 Jambur (Iraq) collision;
Da Tung Shan (Chinese) Sarıyer 2600 tons oil spilled
14.11.1991 Madonna Lily (Philippines) collision;
Rabunion 18 (Lebanese) Kanlıca 20000 live animals
13.03.1994 Nassia (Philippines) collision and fire;
Shipbroker (Philippines) Sarıyer 9000 tons oil spill
The Independenta disaster, besides its fire and explosion threats to the İstanbul area also
added a new but serious dimension to the environmental performance, namely the air
pollution. The emission of SO2 NOx and particles given to the atmosphere were equal to
the daily emission of the whole city in winter. In the six days period almost 480 tons of SO 2
and 104 tons of NOx were emitted to the atmosphere in that area. It is clear that emissions
had an impact on the acidic rains measured regionally, as a consequence of emissions and
particles being carried to quite remote distances (F. Ertürk: 1994).
How about if an LPG Casualty Occurs?
Dangers and environmental threats did not exist long ago; but it does today. There have
been occasions when the strait was even bloced off for navigation considering the safety of
Istanbul. Such an international seaway, granting freedom of navigation for any flag and
vessel, measures for environmental safety are of prime importance for the inhabitants of
İstanbul. An LPG tanker of 30.000 t may have effect of 11 times more than that of the
bombs dropped on Hiroshima and Nagasaki. The Bosphorus is disastrously faced with
many such dangerous vessels passing through almost every day.
Nothing is impossible; someone might argue that an LPG vessel is safe enough and has no
risks and petroleum gases carried in tanks do not explode easily; but it can not be measured
beforehand how physical changes can easily give rise to a violent collision ending up with a
very serious threat or how a large fire affects the gas leaking or escaping from a tank...
Without jumping into chemical equations one can calculate the energy emitted due to
successive explosions in an LPG tanker of 30.000 tons.
Lower heating value of the LPG carried in tanks:
QLPG (total) = 30.000.000 kg x 40.000 KJ/kg = 1.200.000.000.000 KJ
As 1 kg of dynamite generates energy of 5434 KJ;
1.200.000.000.0 KJ : 5434 = abt. 220.000.000 kg of dynamite = 220.000 tons of
The atomic bombs dropped to Hirosima on Aug. 5, 1945 was equal to 20.000 tons of
dynamite (İ.Doğru: 1989). Therefore an LPG tanker of 30.000 tons size can generate energy
equivalent to approximtely 11 atomic bombs of Hiroshima size.
Certain rules and regulations that internationally acceptable have been set up as an
operational guidance to assist the personnel serving onboard either to improve or to
maintain safety at a certain level. This does not mean that no emergencies can occur
affecting the environment. No one can expect millions of inhabitants be prepared for the
immediate action to be taken in the event of an emergency arising from an LPG tanker
while enjoying the freedom of navigation through the Bosphorus. Flammability as well as
toxicity are the main hazards of LPG on environment.
The human body can tolerate gas concentrations up to 0.2 p.c and irritation of eyes occurs.
When the concentration reaches to a level of 0.7 p.c however, drunkenness within 15
minutes takes place and immediate death happens when the concentration is of 2 p.c or
20.000 ppm (ICS, OCIMF and IAPH: 1984).
Another aspect of LPG in case of gas escaping or leakage is the toxicity. As specified in the
safety guide, petroleum gas produces narcosis on human being. “The symptoms include
headache and eye irritation with dizzines similar to drunkenness. At high concentration
these lead to paralysis, insensibility and death” (ICS, OCIMF and IAPH: 1984).
Shipping accidents of today have become more “environmental” and the issue has been
though than ever for all parties concerned.
Potential risks and perils already exist in the Bosphorus mainly due to increased
dimensions of transiting vessels as well as their cargoes of hazardous or harmfull character.
Luckily, people living in the area have not been affected that much and perils were avoided
with minimum damage. But the Bosphorus, as very sensitive environmental area and full
of culture, history, beauty and nature, has to be protected for coming generations by way
implementing safer navigation procedures thus improving innocent passage and avoiding
transitters having a lack of experience on the area to navigate through unless guided.
The Turkish Straits, especially the Bosphorus need, the help of vessel-escorting services in
order to reduce risks of casualty for large vessels. When a vessel loses her navigational
control due to technical or human malfunction, or external factors such as wind, current,
eddies etc., or vessel’s shape like ro/ros and car carriers struggling with heavy drift because
of their huge air draft, all of which affect proper underway one way or other, vessel
escorting is inevitable.
Active escorting of vessels carrying hazardous cargo is the key remedy for safer navigation
in narrow waters.
Main objective for vessel-escorting is to retain control of the vessel escorted and thus to
prevent collision or grounding by keeping her on the planned course or to stop her
Although there exists such service in the Bosphorus rendered for vessels, it is hard to say
that the system as it is today is adequate to meet ever increasing demand on-the-spot.
AKTEN N. and GÖNENÇGİL B. (1998): İstanbul Boğazında Deniz Kazaları (Marine
Casualties in The Bosphorus) in Turkish. Türkiye’nin Kıyı ve Deniz Alanları II. Ulusal
Konferansı. Türkiye Kıyıları 98 Konferansı Bildiriler Kitabı, 22 - 25 Eylül 1998, ODTÜ,
AKTEN N. (2004) : Analysis of Shipping Casualties in the Bosphorus,The Journal of
Navigation, The Royal Institute of Navigation,DOI: 10.1017/S0373463304002826,57,1-
AKTEN N., USTAOĞLU S. and RODOPMAN K. (1995): Marine Casualties in the Turkish
Straits and Their Implication For the Environment, İTÜ Denizcilik Fakültesi, İstanbul.
BIMCO (1993): ICS Code-Shipping and the Environment, May/June 1993, nr.3/93, p.3.
DOĞRU İ. (1989): Chemistry II, Turkish Naval Academy publication, İstanbul.
ERTÜRK F. (1994): Evaluation of the Tanker Casualty Occurred in the Bosphorus on
March 13, 1994, as Seen From the Air Pollution Angle, Unpublished Study, İstanbul.
ICS, OCIMF and IAPH (1984): International Safety Guide For Oil Tankers and Terminals,
London, Witherby and Co. Ltd. pp, 111-112.
LUSTED W. (1996): Marine Pollution: Risks and Constraints, Seaways, The Nautical
Institute, London, November 1996, p. 12 - 15.
SMITH J. W. (1971): Pollution of Water By Oil, conference paper presented at the
conference on “Environmental Problems and Their International Implications”, edited by
Halis Odabaşı, İstanbul, Colorado Associated University Press, Colorado 1973, p. 111.
AKTEN N. (1982) : Türkiye’de deniz kazalari, Türkiye’de deniz kazalari sempozyumu,
Sigorta Hukuku Dernegi, Istanbul Ekim
CHAPMAN S.E, AKTEN N. (1998) : Marine casualties in the Turkish Straits- a way ahead,
Seaways, The Nautical Institute, London, October 1998, 6-8, ISSN 0144-1019.
O’NEIL W. (1999) : Safe navigation, Signals special, North of England, number 4,
O’NEIL W (2003): Raising world standards in the maritime industry,IMO News: 2, London, 4.
ISF and ICS (1996) : Guidelines on the application of the IMO international safety
management (ISM) Code, London, 5.
COCKROFT A.N,(1982) : The circumstances of sea collisions, The Journal of Institute of
Navigation, The Royal Institute of Navigation, London, Jan.1982, Vol.35 No.1, 107.
LLOYD’S LIST (1984) : 250th Anniversary supplement, LLP, London, April 17th 1984, 182.
SAILING DEPTH 1 (2001) : Collision regulations explained (Part1), 18 June 2001, http//:
STURT R.H.B (1991) : The collision regulations, LLP, London , 43, ISBN 1-85044-352-1.
MOLONEY E. (2002) : Proper lookout and safe speed, Signal special, North of England,
number 4, Feb.2002,London, 8.
CAHILL R.A (1983) : Collisions and their causes, Fairplay Publications, London, p.36,
AKTEN N, GÖNENCGİL B, (2002) : “The Turkish Straits : Rights and obligations of
vessels to transit”, paper submitted to the Seminar on “Rights and obligations of vessels
transiting through the Turkish Straits”, Institute of Marine Sciences and Management,
June 21, 3-4, Istanbul.
AKTEN,N (1996) : How to use the sea utmost in Metropolitan transportation, the İstanbul
Chamber of Commerce, 41-44,Istanbul.
BEESLEY C, (2000) : the Cost of collision, Signals Special, issue 4, North of England, 2-3,
BERNAERTS,A (1988) : Bernaerts’ Guide to the 1982 United Nations Convention on the
Law of The Sea, Fairplay Publications, 32-33, ISBN 1 870093 15 1, Surrey .
BUNDOCK M, (1995) : Shipping Law Handbook, Lloyd’s of London Press, E-2,
ISBN 1 85044 889 2, London.
BY-LAW (1994,1998) : Related to maritime traffic schemes in the Turkish Straits Region,
Turkish Official Gazette, July 01,revised November 06, Article 13. Ankara.
CHELMINSKY R, (1998): The Bosporus – A disaster waiting to happen, Smitsonian,
IMO (1997) : General priciples for ship reporting systems and ship reporting
Requirements,including guidelines for reporting incidents involving dangerous goods,
harmful substances and/or marine pollutants, Resolution A.851(20), Assemby 20, 15 p,
Istanbul Chamber of Shipping (2000,2001): Turkish shipping sector report,95-99, Istanbul.
LLOYD’S OF LONDON PRESS (1998): The ratification of maritime conventions,Part II,
II.1 42-43, London.
LLOYD’S SHIP MANAGER, (1992) : Lloyd’s Shippping and ports directory, Lloyd’s of
London Press, 15, London.
STURT R.H.B,(1991) : The Collision Regulations, Lloyd’s of London Press, 146-152, ISBN 1
85044 352 1, London.
THE ADMIRALTY, Hydrographic Department, (1948,1955,1990): Black Sea Pilot,
HMSO, NP 24, 22-29, London.
Turkish Maritime Undersecretariat : Casualty records,Istanbul area,1994 to 2002 (first
YUCEER B.S (2001) : International Straits and pilotage, Nineth of September University,
Maritime series - 3, 50, ISBN 975 6981 42 3, İzmir.
Major Oil Spills
The table below gives a brief summary of 20 major oil spills. A number of these incidents,
despite their large size, caused little or no environmental damage as the oil did not impact
coastlines, which is why some of the names will be unfamiliar to the general public. The Exxon
Valdez is included because it is so well known although it is not the twentieth largest spill of all
time but rather about number 34.
Table 3: Selected major oil spills
Shipname Year Location Oil lost
Atlantic Empress 1979 off Tobago, West Indies 287,000
ABT Summer 1991 700 nautical. Miles off Angola 260,000
Castillo de Bellver 1983 off Saldanha Bay, South Africa 252,000
Amoco Cadiz 1978 off Brittany, France 223,000
Haven 1991 Genoa, Italy 144,000
Odyssey 1988 700 nautical. Miles off Nova Scotia, Canada 132,000
Torrey Canyon 1967 Scilly Isles, UK 119,000
Urquiola 1976 La Coruna, Spain 100,000
Hawaiian Patriot 1977 300 nautical. miles off Honolulu 95,000
Independenta 1979 Bosphorus, Turkey 95,000
Jakob Maersk 1975 Oporto, Portugal 88,000
Braer 1993 Shetland Islands, UK 85,000
Khark 5 1989 120 nautical. miles off Atlantic coast of Morocco 80,000
Aegean Sea 1992 La Coruna, Spain 74,000
Sea Empress 1996 Milford Haven, UK 72,000
Katina P. 1992 off Maputo, Mozambique 72,000
Assimi 1983 55 nautical. Miles off Muscat, Oman 53,000
Metula 1974 Magellan Straits, Chile 50,000
Wafra 1971 off Cape Agulhas, South Africa 40,000
Exxon Valdez 1989 Prince William Sound, Alaska, USA 37,000
Figure 3: Location of Selected Spills
Source : Historical data,ITOPF,s.5
[ Hazards & Disasters ] [ Technological Events ] [ Ship Accidents ]
1858 September 23rd. North Atlantic: German steamer "Austria" destroyed by fire;
471 people died
1858 USA, Mississippi River, Memphis, Ship Island: steamboat "Pennsylvania"
exploded; 150 people died
1865 April 27th. USA, Mississippi River, Memphis, steamboat "Sultana" exploded;
1,547 people died
1869 October 27th. USA, Illinois, Mississippi River below Cairo: steamboat
"Stonewall" caught fire; 200 people died
1874 November 17th. New Zealand, off the coast of Auckland: a fire broke out on
the immigrant ship "Cospatrick". The blaze was nearly extinguished by the crew
when the vessel was steered into the wind, feeding the fire; 468 people died; only 5
survivors were found in a life boat 9 days later.
1883 Pacific Ocean: steamship "Grappler" caught fire; 88 people died
1887 November 15th. British steamer "Wah Yeung" burned at sea; 400 people died
1904 June 15th. USA, New York City, East River, steamboat "General Slocum"
caught fire; 1,021 people died
1909 August 14th. Great Britain, Port of Liverpool: the luxury liner "Lucania", owned
by the Cunard Line was destroyed by fire in the Huskisson Dock in Liverpool.
1911 September 25th. France, Toulon: French battleship "Liberte" exploded; 285
1913 October North Atlantic: the 3,500 ton ship "Volturno" with 660 people aboard
(560 passengers, 100 crew) en route from Rotterdam to New York caught fire; the
blaze was fueled by strong winds and a cargo of chemicals and straw goods;
numerous vessels attended and rescued more than 500 people; 136 died
1917 December 30th. Canada, Nova Scotia, Port of Halifax: the French freighter
"Mont Blanc" loaded with high explosives destined for Europe was rammed by the
Belgian freighter "Imo" while entering the harbor to meet other ships for a joint
Atlantic crossing, including the cruiser HMS. "High Flyer" Approximately 15 minutes
after the collision the cargo exploded destroying about 50% of the city of Halifax;
estimated 3,000 people died and more than 7,500 were injured.
1918 July 12th. Japan, Tokayama Bay: Japanese battleship "Kawachi" exploded;
500 people died
1922 October 12th. Pacific Ocean between California and the Hawaiian Islands:
the 10,500 ton passenger liner "City of Honolulu" caught fire
1934 September 8th. Atlantic Ocean, off the coast of Asbury Park, New Jersey: a
fire onboard the "Morro Castle"; the Captain refused to send out an SOS, afraid that
the ship owner would have to pay for salvage fees; 137 passengers died.
1939 France, Port of Le Havre: the passenger ship "Paris" caught fire and flipped on
its side in the shallow harbor waters
1945 September Pacific Ocean, Alaska, off Ketchikan: Canadian National
steamship "Prince George" caught fire after a fuel tank explosion in the engine room
and burned out; all passengers were safely evacuated; 1 crewmember died
1961 April 8th. Persian Gulf: British Oceanliner "Dora" exploded; 236 people died
1965 November 13th. Bermudas, Nassau, off the coast: Panamanian registered
cruise ship "Yarmouth Castle" caught fire and sank; 89 people died
1967 July 29th. North Vietnam, off the coast: US aircraft carrier "Forrestal" caught
fire; 134 people died
1972 January 9th. Hong Kong Harbor: the ocean liner Queen Elizabeth caught fire
and the blaze swept to the entire vessel, forcing the ship to role over in 43 feet of
1976 December 25th. Red Sea: Egyptian liner "Patria" caught fire and sank; 100
1981 January 27th. Java Sea: Indonesian passenger ship "Tamponas II" caught
fire and sank; 580 people died
1983 May 25th. Egypt, Lake Nasser: Nile steamer "10th of Ramadan" caught fire
and sank; 357 people died
1987 December 20th. Philippines, Tablas Strait, off Mindoro Island: the ferry "Dona
Paz" (designed to carry 1,400 passengers and a crew of 50) crowded with
approximately 3,000 passengers collided head-on with the tanker "Victor" loaded
with 8,300 barrels of oil; in the subsequent explosion and fire at least 3,000 people
died; only 24 passengers survived.
1990 April 7th. Europe East Sea, between Norway and Denmark: arson fire aboard
the "Scandinavian Star"; 159 people died. An international panel concluded in 1991
that the ship, which had just been sold by the Miami-based SeaEscape cruise line to
VR DaNo Lines of Denmark for use in a ferry service, had rotted life boats and
missing or insufficient fire alarms. The ship had been certified safe by the U.S.
Coast Guard and the London-based Lloyd's Register of Shipping.
1991 March 23rd. Atlantic Ocean, off Spain's Canary Islands: a fire started on
board of the Finnish cruise ship "Eurosun", owned by Europe Cruise Line; the crew
put out an SOS call but was able to bring the ship on its own power to the port of
Las Palmas; none of the 300 people aboard were injured.
1991 July 14th. off the coast of Freeport Bahamas: a fire began in the engine room
of the Walt Disney World owned "Majestic"; About 1,120 passengers and crew were
called to their lifeboats and were prepared to abandon the ship while the crews
fought the fire. The vessel was finally towed to Florida.
1994 November 30th. Indian Ocean, off Somalia: a fire broke out in an engine room
of the "Achille Lauro" owned by Italy's Starlauro. Nearly 1,000 people were on
board; 4 people died (2 elderly passengers during the evacuation, 1 aboard a
rescue vessel, and the fourth was never found).
1995 June 18th. after a fire in the control room knocked out power the 2,560
passengers and crew aboard the Carnival Cruise Lines' "Celebration" drifted for two
days with overflowing toilets and no running water. No one was injured, and
passengers were transferred to the sister ship Ecstasy and brought back to Miami.
1995 July 22nd. Alaska, Prince William Sound: a fire that began in the engine room
disabled the "Regent Star" owned by Regency Cruises and forced the evacuation of
1,280 passengers and crew. Two people sustained minor injuries.
1996 July 6th. Pacific Ocean, northwest coast of British Columbia: a fire broke out
in the engine room of the "Golden Princess" during a cruise from San Francisco to
Vancouver. About 1,200 passengers and crew were aboard vessel which was towed
60 miles to Victoria. None were injured.
1996 May 8th. off Freeport, Bahamas: a fire broke out in the engine room of the
Discovery Cruise Lines' "Discovery 1"; none of the evacuated 800 passengers and
400 crew was injured.
1996 July 27th. Pacific Ocean, off the coast of Alaska: a fire on the San Francisco-
based World Explorer Cruises' "Universe Explorer" with 732 people aboard was
believed to have started in the laundry room; 5 crewmembers died of smoke
inhalation and 70 people were injured.
1997 April 6th. Atlantic: a fire on the Cunard Line Ldt.'s "Vistafjord" en route from
Florida to Portugal was caused by a short circuit in the laundry equipment. The
vessel with 991 passengers and crew aboard was diverted to Freeport in the
Bahamas. 1 crew member died of smoke inhalation. A similar fire broke out in the
same area of the ship the previous February.
1997 October 4th. Mediterranean Sea, about 65 miles off Cyprus: fire aboard the
Cypriot "MS Romantica", owned by Paradise Tours that was on a three-day trip to
Egypt and Israel. Estimated 650 passengers and crews evacuated into lifeboats and
helicopters. No one was injured.
1998 July offshore southern Florida: Carnival Cruise liner "Ecstasy", fire started in a
laundry room; 3,475 people aboard, 54 had to be treated for smoke inhalation.
2000 January 11th. Jamaica, 100 miles off Montego Bay: Carnival Cruise liner
"Celebration": fire started at the auxiliary generator system, extinguished by the
automated Halon system. 1,586 passengers and 667 crew were on board, no
injuries reported. The ship was without electrical and propulsion power for several
2000 June 6th. Alaska, Chatham Strait, about 30 miles southwest of Juneau: a fire
broke out in the main switchboard in the engine control room of the Alaska Marine
Highway System (AMHS) ferry Columbia with 434 passengers, 1 stowaway, and 63
crewmembers on board on a regularly scheduled voyage from Juneau to Sitka,
Alaska. As a result of the fire, the vessel lost main propulsion and electrical power
and began to drift. The crewmembers on board the Columbia responded to the fire
first assisted by a U.S. Coast Guard cutter. The fire was extinguished with no
resulting injuries or deaths and the damage was estimated at about US $2 million.
Three passengers were evacuated by Coast Guard helicopter because of medical
conditions and the remaining passengers were transferred to another AMHS ferry
and transported to Juneau.
2004 February 27th - Philippines, Manila Bay near Bataan Island: during an
overnight journey from Manila to Bacolod an explosion ripped through the a luxury
Superferry 14 owned by the WG&A consortium of three shipping lines. The 510-foot
long vessel entered service in 2000 and carried nearly 744 passengers and a crew
of 155 when the fire broke out. More than 750 people have been rescued, some
with severe burn injuries. At least 100 people are reported missing
2004 February 28th - USA, Atlantic Ocean, off the Virginia coast: the Bow Mariner,
a 570-foot tanker built in 1982 and owned by the Ceres Hellenic Shipping
Enterprises Ltd., en-route from New York to Houston carrying a crew of 27 and 3.5
million gallons of industrial ethanol exploded and sank about 50 miles east of
Chincoteague; 21 people died and 6 injured survivors were rescued by US Coast
If you have any questions or comments, or if you would like to share
your experiences with us, we would be more than happy to hear from you.